As Fox News tries to figure out its place in a post-Trump media landscape, the network has claimed it’s moving “to the center-right.” A laughable claim, critics say, that is easily refuted by Fox’s far-right primetime screeds, but also by the shift in tone of a midday key talk show.
Outnumbered, which debuted in 2014 as a female-led panel (with a whimsical “lucky guy” named as the only male panelist), has always straddled the increasingly blurred line of Fox dividing its “hard news” and his wings of opinion. But the show has long nodded to its “fair and balanced” credentials by featuring just one liberal pundit among its rotating panel.
However, in recent months, and as Fox grappled with a ratings slump – at least in part due to MAGA die-hards abandoning the network after its news desk launched specific calls on election night for Joe Biden – the midday talk show appears to have benched two key liberal regulars in Marie Harf and Jessica Tarlov.
And rather, Outnumbered took a noticeable turn to the right, piling its panels with conservative voices and giving more prominence to fiery provocateurs like Tomi Lahren. The resulting show is one that, like much of Fox’s programming, now seems laser-focused on promoting conservative Culture War grievances of the time.
“tomi [Lahren] has no credibility, no resume of experience other than shouting derogatory things on the internet.”
— A current Fox News staff member
“The ratings have dropped and they want more right-wing voices,” a current Fox News staffer told The Daily Beast when assessing the midday show’s new tone, especially in light of the network. which is revamping much of its programming to add more hours of law. -wing opinion commentary.
The prolonged Outnumbered the absence of Harf and Tarlov — both of whom continue to appear elsewhere on the network — notably came almost immediately after an intense skirmish in early December between Harf and the show’s permanent host Harris Faulkner over coverage of the coronavirus deadly pandemic program.
Harf, a former Obama State Department official, challenged Faulkner on Outnumbered spending nearly a full hour talking about five-year-old Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell’s interactions with a suspected Chinese spy, or complaining about coronavirus-related indoor dining restrictions, while giving only 20 seconds of air in the United States exceeds 3,000 per day Deaths from COVID-19 for the first time.
A furious Faulkner shouted Harf, complaining that it was “offensive” that the Liberal panelist “shot there.” The host further chided his colleague, “You can’t see my heart and trust me when I tell you it hurts us all to mourn these Americans and people around the world.”
Prior to Faulkner’s outburst with Harf, the liberal Fox News contributor had appeared in 11 of the last 24 Outnumbered shows and had been in rotation to appear at least twice a week. Jessica Tarlov, another regular Outnumbered panelist, had appeared four times during the same period and had rotated once a week with the show.
Following that Dec. 10 broadcast, however, Harf and Tarlov were removed from any future bookings on Outnumbered, according to two sources close to the situation. And since then, neither of the two women has returned to the series.
The only left-leaning panelists to appear on the midday program are now radio host Leslie Marshall, a self-proclaimed ‘centrist’ Democrat, and Johanna Maska, a former Obama spokeswoman who sat on the roundtable last week. . Fox News host Lisa “Kennedy” Montgomery, a self-proclaimed libertarian, also remains a staple on the show.
Otherwise, the show seemed to rely more and more on arsonist warriors of conservative culture like MAGA youth leader Charlie Kirk, reactionary podcaster Dave Rubin, failed congressional candidate Kim Klacik and, much to the chagrin Fox staffers who spoke with The Daily Beast. Tomi Lahren.
The career bomb-thrower best known for her short, breathless rants on Fox’s digital streaming service Fox Nation, her often hateful tweets (some of which were publicly reprimanded by her own colleagues) and for being fired by Glenn Beck – suddenly became a routine presence on Outnumbered.
Lahren recently renewed her contract with Fox and since December has appeared at least 18 times on Outnumbered, co-hosting at least twice a week. Considering his style of commentary and debate is most at home in Fox’s staunchly right-wing prime time, some Fox News staffers consider his new elevation to be frowning.
“This is an absolute joke and further proof that the show should not be taken seriously,” said a current Fox employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from management. “When I was hired, I was told that [Lahren] would never be on legit shows like Outnumbered Where The five, that she was only Fox Nation. I’m as confused as everyone. Tomi has no credibility, no resume of experience other than yelling derogatory things on the internet.
Another Fox staffer suggested Lahren is a logical choice to spice up the network’s daytime lineup amid a ratings slump. “She’s good at stirring the pot…all it takes these days,” the employee said. “Fox likes what fares.”
While the network’s actions—including programming choices that include the addition of two additional hours of right-wing commentary at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m.—indicate a definite shift to the hard right to shore up MAGA’s hardcore conservative base, the CEO of Fox Corp. Lachlan Murdoch kind of insisted otherwise earlier this month.
“We think where we are targeted, the centre-right, is where we should be targeted. We don’t need to go any further to the right,” he said while touting the company’s ad revenue gains. “We don’t think America is more to the right, and we’re obviously not going to pivot to the left. All of our significant competitors are on the far left.
However, after the election last November, the whole math of Fox News’ programming changed. Disgruntled pro-Trump viewers abandoned the network in droves after Fox’s early call to Arizona for President Joe Biden on election night, a move that put a damper on then-President Donald’s plan. Trump, to falsely declare victory.
As Fox experiences a drop in post-election ratings—Fox has since experienced a rebound and recently returned to number one in prime time—the network has made a concerted effort to win back MAGA loyalists by focusing more directly on conservative opinion and culture war battles. A key part of that change included his “hard news” shows devoting ample time to discussing and amplifying the opinion monologues delivered the previous night by popular Fox pro-Trumps Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity.
Ratings panic became apparent after Martha MacCallum’s now defunct 7pm show The story was beaten one January night head-to-head in the ratings by Newsmax, the new cable TV channel that directly lured disgruntled Fox viewers by openly embracing Trump’s “stolen” fake election ploy. MacCallum’s loss to Newsmax’s Greg Kelly in the key demographic of viewers between the ages of 25 and 54 scared network bosses “deep down,” staffers told The Daily Beast at the time.
And the new management of Outnumbered ultimately appears to be another part of Fox’s overtly right-wing shift to combat ratings issues.
“It’s a complete joke,” a Fox News insider told The Daily Beast. “They don’t even try to attempt a fair discussion anymore.”
“The token liberal was just for show,” the person concluded. “Liberal opinion was only useful to them as a tee shirt for the rest of the gang to achieve guaranteed hits that their audience wants to hear. Now, in their desperation to keep audiences on the run, they’re too afraid to have any opposing views on the show lest more people click on Newsmax.
Diana Falzone was a camera and digital reporter for FoxNews.com from 2012 to 2018. In May 2017, she filed a gender and disability discrimination lawsuit against the network and moved in and left the company in March 2018 .